Ethnic Hmong hold mass protest in Vietnam
May 6, 2011, 7:29 GMT
Hanoi - Thousands of ethnic Hmong people were protesting Friday in northern Vietnam, demanding the establishment of an 'autonomous region,' as the government dispatched troops to the region, sources said.
The demonstration began April 30 when around 5,000 mostly Christian Hmong gathered in Nam Ke commune in Muong Nhe district of Dien Bien province, a remote border region near Laos and China.
Local officials and non-governmental organizations have given conflicting accounts of the protests. A Washington-based Hmong-advocate group said 28 protesters had been killed in clashes.
A district official told the German Press Agency dpa at least 3,000 people had gathered Friday from a peak of 5,000 on Wednesday. He denied there had been any deaths but said protesting Christians had constructed barriers, and dug fortified positions.
'No one had been allowed to enter the commune, including the chairman of the district,' the official said, denying earlier reports that the protesters had kidnapped a group of local officials.
He also said at least 1,300 policemen have been deployed to Nam Ke commune. An unknown number of soldiers had also been dispatched.
Le Thanh Do, deputy chairman of the province's People's Committee, said the Hmong originally gathered because of a rumour 'a supernatural deity' would appear in the area, leading the way to a promised land. He did not specify how many Hmong people had gathered.
'Taking advantage of the situation, the sabotage forces stimulated people to call for an independent state, causing public disorder in the district,' Do told dpa. The crowd turned political, he added.
Responding to a press release issued by the Center for Public Policy Analysis in Washington, saying 28 Hmong had been killed by authorities in the past week, Do denied anyone had been killed.
'The information was totally fabricated,' he said. 'There have been no arrests because authorities are persuading many people to go home.'
Do also rejected claims that the protesters had dug themselves in.
On Thursday reports quoted officials as saying the security forces broke up the demonstration by force, leading to minor clashes between the Hmong and security forces.
'Authorities have not used forces to disperse the crowd for fear the situation would go out of control,' a local official was quoted as saying, adding the situation was 'under control.'
Dien Bien is one of Vietnam's poorest provinces, located in the remote and mountainous area bordering Laos and China.
According to the central government, the province's 170,000 Hmong account for 34.8 per cent of its population. Most Hmong people live on less than 100 dollars a year.
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